The Cure, Dinosaur Jr. and Oscar the Grouch

Some days it all just comes together. Today is already one of those days, because over at Idolator Jess has dug up something I never even knew existed, and the existence of which has immediately improved my mood.

Thing is, of course, I knew about the Dinosaur Jr. cover of “Just Like Heaven” pretty much around the time it got released in 1989. In fact I’m willing to bet for a lot of people that their first exposure to both bands was via the same song. I’d never heard of the Cure before the original “Just Like Heaven” popped up on top forty radio down in San Diego in 1987 — both my sister and I were immediately captivated by it, but my sis, as she did with a lot of things that I ended up adoring beyond all words, was first to the punch, buying both the album and the single IIRC. It took Disintegration for me to start seeing what the Cure was all about and after that point I was off to the races.

Meantime, it was two years later that I first heard Dinosaur Jr.; having dipped my toe into college radio and discovering what proved to be the tail end of what has already been mythologized as the ‘classic’ era of indie rock (in American terms at least), I heard learned of the name but little else. Oddly enough it was KROQ rather than KLA that provided my first audio encounter with J. Mascis and company — it might well have been Rodney Bingenheimer’s show, I’m not sure, but I do remember being in another room on my dorm floor and hearing it on the radio and being amazed, entertained and, when the death-metal roar part came in (not to mention the sudden ending), utterly befuddled. I can’t claim to have ever been a total Dinosaur Jr. fanatic but I’ve enjoyed them well enough since, and am pretty sure I’ve got a few All Music Guide reviews kicking around, for better or for worse (given my writing a decade back, likely for worse).

Three years later everything came together in the best way possible. For their huge Rose Bowl show in 1992, the Cure had two openers — Cranes had been opening for them pretty much throughout the world, but as an extra act in between them and the Cure was…Dinosaur Jr. A lot of us were amused to see this, but it turned out that Robert Smith liked the band as much as Dinosaur Jr.’s cover was its own form of fun tribute (not a surprise in the end, really — Mascis was a goth type in earlier days and both he and Smith are brilliant guitar players with idiosyncratic singing styles).

So anyway, there I was, out on the floor of the Rose Bowl, Dinosaur Jr. anchored on stage going through their set and…yup, they played it. The reaction of most of the fans around me hearing a song they recognized but in a rather different way was, to put it mildly, confused. The ending wasn’t abrupt, though, they just played it out and went on to the next song.

Pretty much that’s all I would have to say about the song, except now Jess has brought to light something so beautiful — the actual original video for the cover version, also taped back in 1989. I’m not entirely surprised I missed it, since I didn’t really pay attention to 120 Minutes and Postmodern MTV until much until later in the year, when there were other things to play and hype, and otherwise channels for seeing this video were few and far between.

Since we live in the happy world we do, it’s easy enough to immediately compare and contrast:

The Cure’s 1987 video:

Dinosaur Jr.’s 1989 video:

Both are truly wonderful, wonderful things. (And yes, Oscar the Grouch is rocking a Deep Wound shirt.)


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